River to River

Weekdays at 12 p.m. on IPR News and News/Studio One and 10 p.m. on IPR News

River to River is Iowa Public Radio's talk program focusing on the news, issues and events in our state. This national award-winning program goes beyond the headlines, frames community problems, and fosters conversation. On Mondays during the legislative session, join in conversations with lawmakers and those impacted by action at the Statehouse.  Wednesdays, political analysts from around the state help you dissect the week in politics.  Fridays we buzz through the week’s big news stories.

River to River is hosted by Ben Kieffer.  It’s produced by Emily Woodbury, @EmilyWoodbury, Lindsey Moon @lindseysmoon and Clare Roth @ClareAliceRoth.  Our Executive Producer is Katherine Perkins.  Our theme music is by The River Monks.

Ben Kieffer

Since 1967, over 1,400 writers from more than 140 countries have taken part in the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program, often referred to as the “United Nations of writers.”

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with several of this year’s writers who attended a welcome party in Iowa City earlier this week. They share poetry, their hopes for their time in the Midwest, and the struggles and inspiration they have brought with them from their home countries.

Pink Sherbet Photography / Flickr

Financial literacy has been required as a part of the 21st-Century Skills portion of the Iowa Core for years. But specifics on enforcing the standard are fuzzy, so personal finance and economics classes vary wildly district to district.

Wikimedia Commons

It’s been 50 years since the Voting Rights Act was signed into law. Author and investigative journalist Ari Berman says the legislation was supposed to serve as an enforcement mechanism for the 15th Amendment.

“We passed prohibition on racial discrimination on voting, but we didn’t enforce it. The Voting Rights Act first abolished literacy tests and poll taxes in states they had been used most frequently. Then it sent federal officials to the south to register voters. In places like Selma, only 2% of people were registered to vote.”

tuchodi / Flickr

Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources says blue-green algae blooms are not only a nuisance, some forms of the algae can be harmful to people, pets, and livestock. Mary Skopec of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says bacteria from algae can produce toxins that are damaging to either the liver or nerves.

“A dog can go from being perfectly fine to being dead within a matter of hours, or even minutes, because this can shut down the liver right away," she says.

John Pemble

Forty years ago, the U.S. withdrew its last troops from Vietnam, marking the end of what was then America’s longest and most wrenching war.

On this edition of River to River, four Iowa veterans reflect on their time in Vietnam.

Dan Gannon, Roger Elliott, Ron Langel, and Caesar Smith join the program to share their experiences as medics, repairmen, career soldiers, and draftees. Host Ben Kieffer talks with them about post-traumatic stress disorder, what it was like to come home to those not in support of the war, and how they have viewed military conflicts since.

Donald Trump announced his immigration policy Sunday, detailing, among other things, how he would keep illegal immigrants out (a wall), who would pay for it (Mexico), and how many officers would enforce the new penalties (triple the current number).

Rachel Caufield, associate professor of political science at Drake University, says even if Trump is elected president, that doesn't mean the plans will come to fruition.

courtesy of Nathan Weiner

Nathan Weiner grew up in Iowa City, miles away from any naturally occurring wildfires. But after using controlled burns to restore Iowa landscape, he made his way out West.

"Whether it was burning a prairie or burning a woodland, we used prescribed fire to help that get back to its natural state, and once we started doing that, I just got bit by the fire bug, as they call it."

Wikimedia Commons

Across the country, rental markets are booming. That’s true in parts of Iowa, especially Sioux City.

Maynard Porter is president of the Siouxland Rental Association. He says the only advice for someone looking to rent in Sioux City right now is simple - good luck.

“You’d probably end up in a motel for a few weeks. I’ve been involved since 1979, and I’ve never seen the market like this. My crews are instructed to lock the doors, otherwise we spend an inordinate amount of time telling people the rentals are not ready yet,” he says.

reynermedia / Flickr

Earlier this week, a new report by the US Department of Energy showed that costs continue to decline while turbine technology becomes more efficient. All of this, along with the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan, means wind energy is having a moment.

Iowa Department of Corrections

Earlier this month, more than 500 of Iowa’s most dangerous offenders were transferred to a new maximum-security prison in Fort Madison.

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with Bill Petroski of the Des Moines Register about the transfer, the differences in the new and old facilities, and the roughly $175 million cost of the prison, originally estimated at $130 million.

John Pemble / IPR

As former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton turns over her personal email server to the FBI amid allegations that she sent or received classified information through personal email accounts, it's too early to tell whether the story will hurt her presidential aspirations.  That's according to Dianne Bystrom, Director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics and Kelly Winfrey, a Lecturer in Leadership and Communication Studies at the Catt Center. 

Smanatha Ing / Flickr

The Alzheimer's Association International Conference was held last month in Washington, D.C. And though there were some glimmers of hope for new treatments, results as a whole were mixed. Dr. Hyungsub Shim, Clinical Assistant Professor of Neurology at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, attended the conference. He says that, considering they've gone 13 years without a new medicine, even mixed results can be encouraging.

liz west / Flickr

Before automatic text messages and digital highway signs, there was a simpler way to spread the word about an abducted child -- the milk carton. And the first faces to show up on them? Iowans Johnny Gosch and Eugene Martin.

Lwp Kommunikáció / Flickr

Hollywood has played out the disaster of an asteroid hitting Earth in films like  Armageddon  and Deep Impact, but is a killer asteroid really in Earth’s future? 

"According to previous history, it will happen during the next 100 years," says Bong Wei, the founding director of the Asteroid Deflection Research Center. "It's time to see an impact by say, a 50 meter asteroid."

Paul De Los Reyes / Flickr

Local and national politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, have called for reforms aimed at reducing America’s prison and jail populations, particularly nonviolent offenders like drug users.

In a speech earlier this month to the NAACP, President Obama said the U.S. needs to fund more drug courts.

Don Graham / Flickr, Licensed Under Creative Commons

President Obama unveiled his Clean Power Plan this week. The plan sets the first-ever EPA standards on power plant emissions and requires a 32% reduction in those emissions over the next 15 years. It also seeks to boost renewable energy sources.

2016 Republican presidential hopefuls reacted negatively to the plan. Florida Senator Marco Rubio called it "catastrophic," while former Florida Governor Jeb Bush described it as "irresponsible and over-reaching." New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called it an example of "overregulation" that would "kill American businesses and jobs."

TruckPR / Flickr

The Iowa Board of Regents is calling for a three percent tuition increase in the spring for Iowa’s public universities. Such an increase would break the tuition freeze on resident tuition from the past 2.5 years.

On this River to River segment, Ben Kieffer sits down with Iowa State University President Steven Leath to talk about college affordability and other concerns in higher education.

Mohamed Somji / Flickr

In parts of Afghanistan, some families without sons pick a daughter to dress and live as a boy - a practice known as bacha posh.

In the first half of this encore edition of River to River, investigative reporter Jenny Nordberg talks with Ben Kieffer about what is behind bacha posh, a practice she details in her book, The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan.

Kent Newman

Raha Moharrak had been a world-renowned athlete for years, but still had one gap in knowledge. 

"I was a little bit arrogant," says Moharrak. "I said, 'Oh I climbed fourteen mountains including Everest, I can learn a bike.' I was wrong. I needed help."

But she learned to ride and this month joined RAGBRAI at the urging of Mara Gubuan, an Urbandale native who originally set out to ride RAGBRAI with her high school friends for their fiftieth birthday. Gubuan works with Shirzanan Global, an organization that empowers Muslim women through sport. 

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Clay Masters conducted this interview with Democratic presidential candidate and former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley Friday, July 24th. Below is a partially transcribed interview.

M: How do you feel you're getting your name out there? Do you like feel you're connecting more, the more time you spend here?

European External Action Service / Flickr

This month, negotiators reached a deal to lift economic sanctions on Iran while limiting their nuclear ability. Most Republicans, including both of Iowa's senators, are against it. And while the political ramifications have been thoroughly hashed out, less attention has been paid to the perspective of Iranians and Iranian-Americans. 

Niloufar Talebi is an Iranian-American writer and translator, and the editor of Belonging: New Poetry by Iranians Around the World. She says this deal could signal a larger shift and opening of cultural relations.

Clay Masters

Sunday in New Hampshire Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton laid out her plan to combat climate change, calling for a sharp increase in the use of renewable energy.

"First, we need to have more than half a billion solar panels installed across the country by the end of my first term," says Clinton. "Second, we'll set a ten year goal of generating enough renewable energy to power every single home in America."

While her proposal drew praise, it also received some criticism due to things left out, including Keystone XL, fracking, and Arctic oil.

Wikimedia Commons

It’s been 25 years since the Americans with Disabilities act was signed into law. The bill’s chief sponsor, Fmr. Senator Tom Harkin, says that the legislation has done quite a lot in the last two and a half decades, including adding curb cuts to all sidewalks and spurring a flurry of technological innovation to accommodate workers with disabilities.

“Before the ADA, if you had a disability, that’s how you were defined, and you weren’t given an opportunity to show what else you were capable of doing,” Harkin says.

Dan DeLuca / Flickr

Iowa has the highest rate of worker fatalities and injuries in the Midwest.

Kathy Leinenkugel, of the Iowa Department of Public Health, says this is due to several factors, including the fact that Iowa has an aging workforce where many people are self-employed.

Lindsey Moon

On average across the United States, women make around 78 cents for every dollar a man makes. In Iowa, that means the average woman can expect to make around ten thousand dollars less than her male counterpart, according to research by the Iowa Office of Workforce Development. 

That gap is even more drastic for minority women. African American women can expect to make 61 cents for every dollar a man makes, and Latinas make 58 cents on every dollar. 

Penguin Random House

Dr. David Casarett was a skeptic when he set out to write Stoned. But in his quest to determine what medical evidence exists for medical marijuana, the palliative care physician found more questions than answers. Host Ben Kieffer talks with him about the book and the research needed to answer those questions.

Casarett and listeners tell stories of how cannabidiol oil has helped children with seizure disorders.  He explains what science knows about the compounds found in cannabis, and the most effective means of extracting and administering those compounds. 

Lindsey Moon / Iowa Public Radio

On this edition of River to River - a listen back to some of the talk show team's favorite News Buzz conversations. Host Ben Kieffer jumps into the pool to find out how the butterfly stroke was invented in Iowa, and he talks with an anthropologist to answer the question of why humans have chins.

US Embassy Kabul Afghanistan / Flickr

For nearly four decades, Ryan Crocker served as ambassador in nearly all the Middle East countries where conflict was present, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

On this edition of River to River, Ambassador Crocker shares his perspective on the Iranian nuclear deal with host Ben Kieffer.

“It could reshape the nuclear scene globally for some time to come,” Crocker says. “That said, no one should think we are moving on to a sun dappled upland in the Middle East.”

Howard Jefferson / Flickr

At an evening camp event in 2010, two teenage boys drowned at the Pella Aquatics Center. Their families filed a claim for negligence against the City of Pella, arguing that the deaths could have been prevented by adequate underwater lighting.

"The lights in the swimming pool apparently were not on that night," says Todd Pettys, of the University of Iowa College of Law. "You couldn't see down to the bottom of the pool."

Nearly five years after the incident, the Iowa Supreme Court considered the question: Are cities liable when employees of city-inspected pools are careless?

Kamyar Adl / Flickr

The age of 65 was a milestone that many workers used to look forward to—the promise of retirement, leisure time, and a guaranteed pension.   But the last couple of decades have brought change: most companies don’t provide pensions, employees must make their own investment choices concerning their 401K (if they are lucky enough to even have one), and simply dropping out of the work force at 65 isn’t an option.

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